Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Is protein key to weight loss?

Research shows that a high protein diet is ideal for weight loss. But how much do we need? And which sources are best?

Is protein key to weight loss?

Most of us have heard of someone who has dropped weight fast on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. These diets, such as the Dukan diet and Atkins, are low in carbohydrates, which makes the body produce less insulin. And when insulin levels are low, the body burns more fat. While they might help you drop the kilos fast, these diets are not recommended for healthy weight management.

Here's how to make protein a part of your diet for long-term good health.

How much protein we need

This differs according to age, gender, weight and state of health. As a guide, most adults need up to 3 serves of protein per day which is equivalent to 65 grams of cooked lean meat, 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk, or ½ cup of nuts or seeds. Adequate protein intake is required for the structure, function and regulation of the body's cells, including muscles, skin, hair, nails, hormones and enzymes and antibodies.

While there are benefits of maintaining a protein-rich diet for weight loss, too much can have the opposite effect. Most Australians eat more protein than they actually need, which can be stored by the body as fat, not as protein. Some of the dangers of consuming a high-protein, low-carb diet include:
  • Encourages the consumption of foods high in saturated fat, which may increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
  • Lack of fibre can cause constipation, bowel disorders, and certain types of cancers.
  • Puts unnecessary strain on the kidneys and liver, and prompts excessive loss of calcium, which may increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Choose your protein wisely

Protein comes from two different sources: plant based (such as soy, nuts, legumes and grains); and or animal based (such as meat, dairy and eggs). When choosing protein-rich foods pay attention to what comes along with the protein. Vegetable sources of protein offer healthy fibre, vitamins and minerals. The best animal protein choices are fish, skinless chicken, eggs, low-fat dairy and lean cuts of red meat. Processed meat (bacon, sausages, ham), full-fat dairy, and fast food contain saturated fat and should be limited.

Bottom line

While high-protein diets can help with fast weight loss, those that are low in carbohydrates are not recommended in the long term. To help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, it's important to combine sensible portions of good quality, lean protein with low-GI carbohydrates in every meal. That said, the golden rule to losing weight still comes down to energy balance: kilojoules in versus kilojoules out. So how much you're eating and exercising matters too.

Well balanced protein meal plan

Breakfast: two-egg omelette made with low-fat feta, 1 ½ cup of chopped tomatoes, mushroom and onion; served with 1 slice of rye toast.

Lunch: one medium multigrain roll with 100 grams of skinless chicken and 2 cups of salad vegetables.

Dinner: 100 grams of sliced cooked lamb (150 grams raw) with 1 cup soba noodles and 2 cups of stir-fry vegetables.
Snack options: veggie sticks with 2 tablespoons of hummus or small low-fat fruit smoothie + protein powder

Good sources of protein

Good sources of low-GI carbohydrates

  • Wholegrains such as rye, brown rice, oats, corn, buckwheat, quinoa
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Most fruit and vegetables, except potatoes

One serve of protein is equivalent to...
  • 65 grams of cooked lean meat
  • 170 grams of legumes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 200 grams yoghurt
  • ½ cup of nuts or seeds

*To be on the safe side, always check with your doctor before adding more protein to your diet.

Comment below if you found this helpful! How do you maximize your protein intake for the day? Do you prefer having protein through protein shakes or through natural sources like meat, dairy and eggs? Have you found increasing protein in your diet beneficial in losing weight? Let me know :)


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